if you’ve ever wondered where kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and the pesky platypus come from, then maybe it’s time to plan your next vacation in the land down under! Australia is a huge country or continent if you will, and covers a vast amount of individuality and distinction among its inhabitants. Most people today live in the coastal regions as the interior or “outback” can be quite a dry and desolate area. There are a few small towns here and there in the interior, like Alice Springs, and the train does travel back and forth, but for the most part people tend to congregate in the big cities along the coast.
Queensland in the north is usually the starting point for visitors who are interested in the Great Barrier Reef and some scuba diving, and it’s also famous for the many crocodiles of various shapes and sizes, including the notorious salt water croc of “The Crocodile Hunter” fame. Remember to stay out of the rivers and streams in this province, because you don’t want to meet up with these big boys face to face!
The southern part of the country can be much milder and cooler and most people really enjoy it here. From Sydney to Melbourne, and across the bottom to Hamilton is a vast expanse of very beautiful countryside with the Grampian Mountains added for some scenery. These mountains are a favorite among outdoor lovers, and there are some great views from the top! I personally climbed one of these on a cold winter day, and there was absolutely no one else coming or going that whole day… It was a lot of work, and toward the top the cold wind was really intense, but the view was amazing and I could see the surrounding area for miles! It was well worth it, and if you get a chance while you are there, give it a go. There are usually well marked trails, so make sure to stay on one and don’t go wandering off the beaten path! You may even see an emu or kangaroo in the wild, and if you go in the summer watch out for the dreaded Brown Snake! They could sure ruin your day if you get bitten!
There is a very interesting “town” called Dunkeld at the base of the Grampian Mountains, and one of the rest stops there was a place called “The Royal Mail”… This is actually a very fine dining restaurant that had just become famous before I got there because the Travel Channel food guru Anthony Bourdain had just done an episode at that very restaurant in the middle of nowhere! The chef is superb, and developed an incredible menu where he uses freshly grown vegetables and herbs right from his garden, and tries to implement as many local ingredients from the area as possible in his selections. Anthony Bourdain loved the food, and he called it the “best restaurant anywhere in Australia”. That’s quite a compliment, coming from him!
At that very same restaurant in the outer bar, I met a man who was carrying around an orphan baby wallaby in his backpack, and he put the sack down and opened it up and showed me it. He said that he carries him like that because he’s not weaned yet, and he has to grow enough hair to be able to stay warm on his own before getting out of the pouch. That is what he would be doing in his mothers pouch anyway, and so it was natural to him. It was great though, because this guy from the town (that the bar keep knew very well), just popped this baby wallaby out and placed him on the bar and no one batted an eye! Sounds straight out of the movie “Crocodile Dundee!”
If you are planning on driving on the roads down there, watch out for that leftover habit from the British, driving on the wrong side of the road! It can be a little dangerous if you aren’t used to it, and also watch out for kangaroos crossing the road, especially at night! They say that it’s not the first one you see that you will hit, it’s the 2nd or 3rd because they travel in packs. I personally came within about a second of hitting a kangaroo at night, so I know what I’m talking about! Take my advice, stay safe and grab a taxi…